Wednesday, September 30, 2015

First Play - Descent: Forgotten Souls Expansion

    My friend Aaron got me playing the first Descent, and then he ended up getting the Second Edition a few years ago.  Neither of us really likes the second edition as much, the mini-sized cards I find terribly annoying, and the defense dice instead of a fixed number makes things feel even more swing-y/less predictable.  But overall it's not a bad game, and we play from time to time.
    A while ago we got the Forgotten Souls expansion, which claims that you can play Descent (2nd) without an Overlord.  I like this idea, I don't really like adversarial games, and while a GM in an RPG does have to play the "bad guys" the goal is to provide something for the players to work to overcome and unexpected twists and a logical sequence of events (that on a good day even resembles a plot).  So I've never felt an RPG was adversarial, but the Overlord in Descent always seemed that way.  After all, the Overlord doesn't set the board that the players have to run, placing traps at predefined points like in an RPG, instead the Overlord dynamically spends points to create traps and monsters and such out of thin air in the most effective/dastardly way possible.  So, as I said, the idea of a non-Overlord game sounded nice, in theory.  And a few weeks ago we actually played it for the first time.
    Forgotten Souls is basically a set of cards that describe each room of the dungeon and what happens.  There is one opening encounter, represented by a card that has any special rules (in the first room I believe one was that the heroes could not heal) for the room.  There are 3 more encounters that are a part of the story, which get shuffled into a set of 8 other rooms that act as filler.  I actually like this idea, I think it's kind of cool to build the dungeon one room at a time, with each having its own gimmick or purpose.  I don't think it would be bad if you just decided on how many encounters you wanted, like 2 random in-between every story encounter, so that you could shrink or grow the dungeon for the time you had available.
    Once you draw the room you set the tiles up according to the rulebook - which I would prefer if the map was on another card or a poster.  You drop more monsters based on the number of players, so it scales well from 2 to 4 people.  And then you draw a card that tells you how the monsters are going to act.  Players go first, until they meet the victory condition for the encounter card.  But, if any figures are still on the board, random "peril" events trigger to encourage the players to keep moving.  That was a kind of odd system, and I'm not sure I even played it right.  Then you move on to the next encounter until you reach the end.
    Overall it did what it said on the box, it was a way to run a dungeon without an Overlord - but it was also fairly limited enough that you couldn't use it in general - you had to be playing the particular dungeon it came with.  Not a bad thing, but also with lots of room for improvement and expansion.

What I liked...
  • No Overlord - makes the game feel a little more co-operative (to bad the rules don't always support that).
  • Room By Room Design - it was actually really nice to look at the dungeon as a series of little rooms each with a purpose instead of the one giant floor of regular Descent.  I liked the pacing and flow a lot better, not as many random hallways and stuff.

What I didn't like...
  • Random Monster Goals - each encounter you draw an Activation Card that says what the monsters are going to do in that room.  Which is kind of weird.  In one room the monsters targeted the character with a ranged weapon, which only one player had - so the other player was pretty much free to act.  Or another room they targeted the farthest away character, running past the closer one.  Really, this over-complicates things.  Unless a set of different monsters were specifically chosen to do something (tanks in front, archers in back) then really they always move and attack the closest character - if they want to be effective.  There is not that much tactical depth, at least in the limited playing I've done, to justify having lots of different targeting/action conditions.  And really, the monster tactics should be specific to a room - if the room has something to be guarded, then some number of monsters should be guarding it, regardless of what the players do.
  • The Peril System - when you complete the goal of the encounter, but have not cleared the map, it seems to switch into some sort of countdown timer with random "peril" events triggering at the end of each round.  This felt really arbitrary and artificial.
  • No Example Of Play - this is a very different way of playing Descent, it really should have had at least one room written out in some detail with an example of play to help you understand what you were supposed to be doing.

What I wish I knew before I started playing...
  • The Rulebook Is A Fancy PDF - along with the new sets of cards you need the rules for how to run the expansion, which is not included in the physical package.  Instead you have to go online and download the PDF of the rules, and said PDF is full-color with lots of background graphics and gradients on each page.  So, printing it in color is going to use a lot of ink, and printing it in black and white is going to have a lot of grey - not ideal either way.  When we played I ended up running between the game board and my laptop (didn't think my phone was big enough to read it) to figure out what to do next.  This isn't too bad, if you play it enough times I'm sure it'll become second nature, but at first it is annoying.  Don't know why they couldn't have printed at least the room layouts in a folded poster format.

Recommendation- If you like the idea of Overlord-less Descent give it a try, or at least go to the company's website and read the rulebook and see what you think.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Don't Miss Counting XP or GP

    I recently started following The Angry GM, and I love his work.  He is D&D-based, mostly with 5th Edition but his ideas could directly or indirectly work with most other editions and games.  His ideas have helped me shape my own thoughts on running and designing RPGs.  But a recent series of his made me want to comment.
    Angry has started designing a Megadungeon, and the first thing he's done is look at the XP system, and how to pace the flow of encounters so that the party should be around 11th to 13th level when they hit the final boss fight at the end.  This has been an very long and seemingly difficult process, and here are links to the two relevant pages I want to comment on: part 1 and part 3 of his series.

    Now, first off I want applaud Angry for doing such due diligence and really thinking through his design - that's the mark of a serious GM that he doesn't settle for a shortcut.  Also, he's a really smart guy for how he explains and then takes apart and modifies the XP system in D&D.
    What I don't understand though, is why bother doing it in the first place?

    I mentioned in an earlier post how I have hated a lot of things about 13th Age, but there are also some things I really like.  As a game mechanic, 13th Age does not have XP.  There are no XP tables or awards for monsters or the endless debate of should xp be given for gold or how much is a bypassed but not defeated encounter worth - or any of that stuff that keeps GMs up at night.  Instead 13th Age says: level up when you want to level up, and give some incremental rewards if you want to dole out smaller advancement packets.  So, according to the game there is no XP.  I have taken this a step further, I dropped gold as well, and all treasure really.  My players don't loot the enemies bodies because I don't let them sell anything.  I assume they have any reasonable non-magical items for their class and character, and they get 2 potions and 1 magic item at the end of every adventure.  That's it.
    Now, I used to count XP.  Back when we were doing our rotating GM campaign with our regular Pathfinder group we were good little children and added up all the XP we earned according to the book.  We got from level 1 or so (we may have started a bit higher, like up to 5, I honestly don't remember) to level 12.  We decided that even the characters who we not a part of the adventure all got the same XP, so that we didn't have separate XP for all 4 or 5 characters each of us rotated through.  We played a lot of games.  We defeated a lot of encounters.  So we did a lot of counting.
    When we played the Rise of the Runelords campaign we decided to simplify things.  We stopped counting XP, instead we just used the recommended levels that each chapter of the campaign had.  We got from level 1 to 18, and honestly it felt like we leveled up a lot faster then when we were counting XP in our home-brew campaign.  Even for RoR though, we did count gold.  I, in fact, had to keep a running log of all the loot we found, and then at the end of the adventure ask who wanted to keep what, total up the values of the rest, divide that in half, and then divide that by the 3 of us players.  It was a lot of very tedious work.  It really sucked near the end, when we started killing a lot of high-level spellcasters and got their spellbooks.  According to the campaign the GM could set the value of the books to whatever number he wanted, which was pretty useless advise.  So I took the cost to write the spell into the book, and multiplied that by "every level 1 - 8 spell except the Illusion school" or some similar huge number, and took that as the value of the book.  It was the closest to something I could put hard numbers to that I could think of.  It took hours, all this counting loot in general - though the spellbooks took most of that time.  I wasted several sheets of paper with my calculations.  And in the end our level 18 characters had level 19-20 equipment since there were three of us instead of the usual four, according to the "recommended wealth by level" chart.
    What struck me after all of that, when we switched to 13th Age and I looked back on Pathfinder, was one question - what did I get for all that effort?

    Here's the thing, as someone said - it might have been Angry even - it's okay if something is complicated, as long as we get something of value from that extra effort.  Nobody wants to waste time, nobody wants to pour a ton of work into something meaningless, so the more time something takes, the more work required, the more value that activity has to have.  And what, really, is the value of all that complicated fiddling with XP and Wealth?  What the hell do we honestly get from counting every point, modifying up for a "hard" encounter and down for an "easy" encounter and by so much for more than one monster and so on and so forth?  The thing is, this is all random, arbitrary crap to begin with.  Looking at one of Angry's tables for 5th Edition (because I don't want to bother to find mine for Pathfinder, I did the same thing once) it takes:
  • 6   Encounters to go from 1st to 2nd level
  • 6   Encounters to go from 2nd to 3rd level
  • 12 Encounters to go from 3rd to 4th level
  • 15 Encounters to go from 4th to 5th level
  • 15 Encounters to go from 5th to 6th level
  • 15 Encounters to go from 6th to 7th level
  • 15 Encounters to go from 7th to 8th level
  • 16 Encounters to go from 8th to 9th level
  • 15 Encounters to go from 9th to 10th level
  • 18 Encounters to go from 10th to 11th level
    What the hell kind of sense does that make?
    First and Second levels need the exact same, 6 encounters to level up.  Then Third level needs twice as much (200%), 12 encounters to level up.  So, Fourth level must need 12 encounters too, right, to keep the same requirements for two levels and then jump up?  No, that isn't the pattern.  Fourth level needs 25% extra, going from 12 to 15 encounters to level up.  Then, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh levels all need exactly the same amount, 15 encounters to level up.  We had a run of two levels that had the same requirements, now we've got a run of four instead.  When Eighth level comes around and jumps up, do we get the same 25% jump, or the original 200% jump?  No, instead Eight level needs one extra encounter, a minor 16 instead of 15 to level up, a less than 10% increase.  Why?  Why is that level any harder to reach at all, the last four weren't, and if it is then why by only 1 small, stupid encounter?  And finally we go back down to 15 and then jump again to 18 to finish the section we're looking at, which is around our earlier 25%.
    Where is the sense of this?  What logical progression does it follow?  What is it based on?  Is it based on a study of human behavior or how we learn new tasks?  Plenty of people have talked about skills in real life - here are one, two and three links found from the quickest Google search.  Is it based on the amount of time that the designers want players to spend on the game?  What?  Where do those numbers come from?  Because they don't follow any easy to read progression at first glance.
    So, given that we're agonizing over some artificial construct it begs the question, what are we gaining from all this?
    I haven't been running my 13th Age game very long.  We've done 3 sessions, and my goal is to make the whole campaign last about 10 sessions, with everybody gaining a level at the end of each.  We don't meet very often, it's taken the entire year to have three sessions, so I figured we might as well move at a good speed, and let everybody see how their character progresses from start to finish.  This system works for me, it lets me obsess about other numbers than XP - and I'm glad.  With Pathfinder I was starting any one-shot characters (not in our normal campaign flow) at level 5, since that was the first level they got their class-defining ability (wild shape for druids, ki pool for monks and so forth).  That seemed fine.  We didn't miss anything, the RPG Gods did not descend and punish us for skipping a few levels.  And with a one-shot character why bother playing the 1st level wimp when you know you're not going to invest the time in developing them?  The players you have, the story you're trying to tell, really mean a lot more for your pace of advancement then some crusty old table.

    And everything I've said about XP applies just as well to GP, or wealth.  Again, how much money a character should have for whatever level is a stupid and artificial creation.  There is no possible way to accurately create an economy for any RPG, it cannot be done - because economies are so huge, so complicated, and involve so many interconnected elements that even modern economists have a hard time understanding or agreeing about anything related to our own; and we have detailed access to the data about our own, never mind some made up world that is lacking in all the necessary details.  Like with 13th Age, you might as well set some general guidelines for what "feels right" and let go of all the number-chasing.  What good is it really doing?
    Anyways, as a former number-chaser who is now reformed, I really don't understand why I used to care, or wasted so many hours and sheets of paper calculating all the fiddly bits that don't really mean anything.  How many encounters should you have?  In my opinion, as many interesting and challenging ones as you need to tell the story or fill the time (if you have no over-arching story).  And that number does not exist on any chart.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Homeless Nerd Reviews - Fallout Shelter

    The Fallout series are a post-apocalyptic tactical or role-playing games, and before the release of Fallout 4 in November we have Fallout Shelter, and iOS or Android mobile game.  I've only played the last two Fallout games, but I liked them a lot, so when I recently upgraded my phone to one that could play Fallout Shelter I decided to give it a try.
    In Fallout Shelter you play the role of Overseer, in charge of your own Vault and the Dwellers who live there.  You have to build rooms in the vault, assign dweller to jobs and even name all the children.  It's kind of like The Sims, on a broader scale.  The beginning rooms produce resources, like power or food or water, and you need enough to power the base and feed the dwellers.  You can also send dwellers outside to explore the wilderness, where they will bring back outfits and weapons - or die horribly.  It's a bit of a gamble.  In fact, each room that produces resources can be "rushed" to make them faster, but with a percentage chance to fail and cause a disaster instead.  So there is a fair amount of risk to things, though once you get a good balance of resources and dwellers you don't really need to rush anymore.
    It's a very casual game, not incredibly deep, and there is no storyline or plot.  You just manage your vault and try to keep everybody alive and happy for as long as you want.
    Here's a picture of my vault, at the moment-

What I liked...
  • Fallout Nostalgia - I've only played Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I really liked both games a lot, so it is fun to be in the Fallout universe, even in a completely different way from the games.
  • Casual - once your vault hits a certain point it really runs itself, so you can log in two or three times a day to check on things but you don't have to obsess over the game.
  • Not What I Usually Play - I'm not really a base-building kind of gamer, I really like role-playing games, so this is a fun diversion from what I'd usually play (though I'll admit I did go through a Sims 2 phase).
  • Free, Though A Few Bucks Helps - the game is free, and you can play it fine without spending any money.  There are lunchboxes that give random special loot, and you can get them by doing in-game achievements.  Still, if you're willing to shell out about $10 you can get some Mister Handys that automatically collect resources and about 5 lunchboxes (at the time of writing this, prices and availability may change on that) which will give you a big boost for not a lot of money.  And it is good to support free games by spending something.

What I didn't like...
  • Kind Of Pointless - there is really no end-game, no over-arching goal, you just keep building rooms and making people until you feel like stopping.  I'm not a big fan of that, I like to feel that I've accomplished something in my games and the achievements are just not significant enough to give that feeling.
  • Micromanaging - likewise I don't really like to have to micromanage everything; in Fallout Shelter disasters can strike, like a fire or radroach infestation, and only the people in the room will do anything about it.  If you want someone from another room to help you have to press and drag them to the trouble spot.  That's kind of annoying.  Also, if you want any new baby vault dwellers you have to press and drag two parents into the living quarters yourself.
  • The Touch Screen Interface - this can be a real headache at times when you are trying to select someone and just get the room instead, or your press and drag isn't being recognized, and the pinch to zoom can be frustrating.  Sadly though, these are inherent limits of playing a game on a phone.

What I wish I knew before I started playing...
  • Go Slow - my first vault I tried to rush every room and build my population as fast as possible, and it ended in a disaster.  Actually, take your time.  Only have one or two women pregnant at a time, so your population doesn't out-pace your resources.  Let rooms make their resources, only rush when you've got a 30% or less chance of disaster.  Don't obsess over getting a dweller into the wilderness as soon as possible, make sure your vault is stable first.  Plus, getting a few lunchboxes (by achievements or cash) should net you a really good weapon or special dweller who will help a lot (I got the 16 damage Gauss Rifle in my first lunchbox, and it has helped immensely).
  • Leave Room To Grow - you can chain rooms, up to three in one unit, and it seems to be a lot better to build them in groups instead of singles.

Recommendation- if you liked the Fallout games, or The Sims, give it a shot; otherwise, there's not really a lot here (most of my phone games are for playing while I wait at the mechanic or doctor's office, but this game is not very good for that, you have to log in each day to maintain things).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Play- Star Wars: Imperial Assault

    A friend of mine bought this game, and the guy at the game store told him, "It's basically Star Wars Descent."  That was the best way to describe this.
    Well, that's not a big surprise since it is by the same guys who made Descent, Fantasy Flight Games.  Like Descent, you click together puzzle-like map tiles, get 1 - 4 players (though optimized for 4) who are the Rebels, while one player is the Empire (and sort of GM).  Each rebel has a hero card, and a small hero deck of skills to buy with xp during the campaign (which it is also optimized for).
    There are a whole lot of cards and counters and dice and terrain tiles and dice in the box - have lots of plastic bags to sort stuff in after you break it all apart.

What I liked about this...
  • I liked Descent, so I liked the structure of the game.  The unique rebel heroes and generic imperial bad guys felt right with the setting
  • The missions are cooler than Descent, usually there will be some starting forces but then as the rebels do stuff events will trigger to complicate things, which keeps everybody on their toes
  • The campaign setting is cool, with its branching paths depending on if the heroes win or lose a mission, and the increasing rewards and threat all seem pretty cool - we only had time to play the starter encounter and 2 missions though
  • Each side has a pretty distinct feel, the rebels are powerful heroes while the imperial forces are weaker individually and need to rely on good tactics and teamwork
What I didn't like...
  • The rulebooks are not always that clear, and could really use some better examples of play - it can be hard to make sense of all the steps and they are not intuitive
  • The terrain: while the terrain puzzle is cool, it is also a lot of bits to keep track of and takes a good while to assemble the map, something I also didn't like so much about Descent
  • Mini-cards, these also appeared in the 2nd edition of Descent, and the super-small cards for abilities are a pain to read when you're my age, and a pain to move around the table at times;  one-half of a normal playing card size would be nicer than one-quarter
  • Square tiles mean a lot of annoying mapping to tell if you have line of sight to shoot at someone - which is a given pain with the grid layout
    Overall I liked it a lot.  It is a nice board game with some role-playing seasoning, and while the setup time and campaign structure means you really need to invest some time to play, still it is fun.  I look forward to trying another game.

Just How Dangerous Is Combat?

    A question for you dear reader: how many hits does it take to kill someone on average (both median and mean) in Pathfinder?
    If you're like me, odds are you never really thought about it much.  "Not many" at the lower levels to "a whole lot" at the higher levels might be your reply.  While combat starts very deadly it seems to take a million swings-and-misses by the teens, and ironically very deadly again at the highest levels with all the save-or-die effects.
    You also might be asking, so what?  Well, as both player and GM it is very important to know how deadly combat is, because you need to know what is effective.  Let's say weapons only do 1 HP of damage per hit.  Imagine this: two fighters circle, looking for an opening, and they only have 1 HP each - so the first hit will be the last.  Let's look at another example: two demigods circle, looking for an opening, each has 1,000,000,000 HP - so it's going to take a whole lot of hits to end the fight.  In the first case, with only 1 hit to kill, getting that hit becomes all-important.  You would want to take Improved Initiative for sure, and a really high Dex, to make sure you get off that first shot (and it lands).  But with a billion hits to kill, well, that's a more leisurely pace.  You have breathing room, you can try different combat maneuvers and options, since even if you fail and get hit in return, well, no big deal - lots more HP where that came from.  A low hit to kill system has a different focus from a high hit to kill one.  And as a GM, you never want to put the one HP opponent against the billion HP opponent, the lower side has no chance at all of winning, and is going to be a boring fight (well, unless you make it a very bad idea to kill the lower side, but that's another post).
    In our Pathfinder example, at low levels you pick fights very carefully, even bypass them when possible, because combat is deadly.  But by the teens you are wading into the middle of a horde of goblins, slaying them with gay abandon.  At the higher levels you stop worrying so much about armor class and start taking a hard look at your saves.  The different pacing leads to different priorities and behavior.
    But while knowing the hits to kill of Pathfinder is nice, again it is kind of unimportant - well, let's say once you know it you don't really have to think about it.  But there is a time when you have to think a lot about how dangerous your game's combat system is: when you switch to playing another game.

    If you've read the blog you know I've been making house rules for 13th Age, and digging into the structure of the system in some depth.  I started by looking at how the abilities worked, and then moved on to spells, since I want to make sure the house rules I created work within the framework of the game.  As a part of that, I have had to look at spells - specifically how spell damage compares to weapon damage.  From there I ended up taking apart the whole combat system.  And what I found explained something about the system I had felt but been unable to articulate.
    There is sort of a staple in D&D gaming, the goblin.  Virtually every 1st level player will fight the 1st level goblin as a beginning step on the road to bigger and better monsters.  When we ended our Pathfinder campaign and started the 13th Age one, I decided to keep the tradition alive and so the first encounter was between my 4 characters (my 2 friends, me as both GM and player, and the Bear animal companion who I upgraded to 1st level instead of the book 0th level) and 4 goblins.  From my Pathfinder experience I thought this would be a somewhat challenging but predictable win for the party.  Instead the bear went down and everybody was injured and glad to be alive at the end.  Which was when I noticed something, 13th Age combat is a lot more deadly than Pathfinder's was.  But until I pulled apart the numbers, I didn't really know why.  What I did know was that I was going to have to be careful, I've put in fewer monsters and played them kind of dumb (and fudged more than a few dice rolls, my players were just as surprised as me, so I didn't want to punish them for not knowing a system that I couldn't prepare them for).
    The thing is, every game is built on assumptions.  How hard should the players be compared to the monsters, how many hits should an average fight last, what options are available to both sides and how often can they use them and how big an impact do they have?  These are all decisions made by the game designers and usually hidden under all the numbers and feats and attributes and progressions and stuff that makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.
    Let's look at Pathfinder again.  The default attack in Pathfinder is the naked man.  A naked man has a base armor class of 10.  With no other modifiers, the base attacker has a zero modifier and a d20 roll.  You have to roll over, so the odds of rolling 11 - 20 is 50%.  So all attacks, at the most basic level, have a 50% to hit.  Armor and Dex make that lower for the defender, BAB progression and Str make that higher for the attacker, and there are a millions feats and spells that can change that equation.
    Okay, so once we hit, how many hits to kill?  Well, that's a bit harder to track but again, the middle-of-the-road combatant gets a d8 for hit points, and they get those every level.  While the middle-of-the-road weapon is the trusty long sword, which also does d8 damage.  So, about 2 hits on average sounds right.  Well, at first level.  See, while HP increases by a d8 every level, weapon damage doesn't.  Weapons can get an extra d6 or two, from flaming or frost or shock abilities, but mostly weapons get +1 increments (from both weapon abilities and a lot of feats).  So while it may take 2 hits to kill at level 1, by level 10 it's more like 5-8 (I'm going off the top of my head, it's a pain to try to actually calculate given all the variables).  Only spells tend to do the caster's level in damage, making them much more deadly (even without the save-of-die stuff).
    So, base 50% chance to hit, with low then higher hits to kill.

    Thing is, that's not 13th Age.
    I'm not going to go into a fully detailed breakdown, I can if anybody cares and is curious but I want to keep this post kind of short.  In 13th Age our default is still the naked guy, since he is the base chance to hit that we will be modifying.  And there, the odds are a lot different.  It looks the same, naked guy has an AC of 11 (10 plus 1 for first level and no attribute modifiers).  Thing is, the generic first level monster (mook or normal) has a base/default +6 to hit.  And, 13th Age is roll equal-or-over (Pathfinder is over), which means our monster has a base 75% to hit, a bit higher than the 50% of Pathfinder.  Also, there are very few ways in increase Armor Class in 13th Age, it mostly goes up by one point each level - but so does the base monster attack bonus.  So for all levels from 1 to 10, in an on-level fight the average monster has a good chance to hit the average player.
    It gets more fun from the player's perspective.  The average 1st level monster has a base AC of 16.  Again, with no attribute modifiers, the average player gets a +1 for being first level, which means he only has a 30% chance to hit in return.  So things are in the monster's favor by default.  And again, everything goes up by 1 point per level on both sides, so this is a common ratio from level 1 to 10.
    What about hits to kill?  Well this is pretty interesting.  The 13th Age designers seemed to really want a stable system, because even though you add one die of damage per level, even though 5 different spells have 5 different damage progressions, even though there are all these numbers to confuse things - it actually boils down to all monsters and players taking about 3 to 5 hits to kill.  No matter the attack, no matter the level, no matter the circumstances - 3 to 5 hits is about how long somebody is going to be around.
    So, monsters base 75% chance to hit and players base 30% chance to hit, 3 to 5 hits to kill throughout all levels.

    Yes, 13th Age combat is a lot more deadly than Pathfinder.  My gut feeling was right.
    Now, I am not saying that one or the other is better - let me make that clear up front.  There is no "better" or "worse" to this sort of thing.  Either you like your combat deadly or you like it leisurely, it's a matter of personal taste.  But, one thing that is important and indisputable - you have to know which one your system is.  And frankly, games suck at this.  There should be a section in every GM book or chapter on the "combat assumptions" about how hard things should be to hit and how many hits to kill and what kind of fights and player behavior the game expects.  This is vitally important information for both the GM and the players to know up front, when planning characters and gear and teamwork.  And pretty much no game actually does this.  You have to play it, or get a calculator and the book, and figure it out yourself - which is pretty darn stupid when you think that the designers had to answer those same questions and could just write down what the hell they were thinking instead of making you work for it yourself.  And like I discovered, when you switch games, try something new, if its combat assumptions are very different from your experience then you're going to have a hard time playing on either side of the screen.

Quick Movie Review - The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

    This is going to be a quick review, saw this movie a few days ago (maybe last week?  I can't remember anything nowadays).  I don't remember ever seeing the TV show, and I wasn't really looking forward to this movie - but I have to admit I liked it.  It had that old-time spy movie feel, and was different being set in the 60s.  Like Kingsmen: The Secret Service it was a cool new take on the spy genera.  Everybody did a good job with the acting, and the story was interesting enough.  I would recommend catching the cheap show on this one.